|Publication number||US7971068 B2|
|Application number||US 10/834,620|
|Publication date||Jun 28, 2011|
|Filing date||Apr 29, 2004|
|Priority date||Apr 29, 2004|
|Also published as||US20050246294|
|Publication number||10834620, 834620, US 7971068 B2, US 7971068B2, US-B2-7971068, US7971068 B2, US7971068B2|
|Inventors||Aston G. Farquharson, Robert T. Alexander, Michael J. Cammarota, Thao N. Nguyen, Michael A. Penn|
|Original Assignee||International Business Machines Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (29), Non-Patent Citations (8), Referenced by (1), Classifications (12), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is related in some aspects to co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/761,551, filed Jan. 21, 2004 and entitled “Method, System and Program Product for Electronically Executing Contracts Within a Secure Computer Infrastructure,” which is hereby incorporated by reference.
In general, the present invention relates to a method, system and program product for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure. Specifically, the present invention allows related contracts between multiple parties to be electronically developed, while providing adequate separation and security between the contracts.
As use of computer networks becomes more pervasive, there is a growing need to provide for the electronic execution/signature of contracts. Electronic execution of contracts can be both more efficient and cost effective than the traditional paper-based approach. Some specific types of contracts that are amenable to electronic execution are hardware purchase agreements and related service agreements. For example, in purchasing computer hardware, a purchaser may also desire to purchase an associated service agreement. As is well known, these agreements often range over a period of years and can have various pricing schedules. In many instances such contracts might have several different parties. For example, a first contract partner might sell hardware to a second contract partner who will resell the hardware to a customer along with a corresponding service package. Still yet, the first contract partner might sell hardware to a distributor who will resell the hardware to a second contract partner, who will then further resell the hardware and a corresponding service package to the customer.
Unfortunately, many concerns have been raised over electronic contract execution. One such concern is ensuring that electronically executed contracts are legally binding as intended. This can be difficult unless it can be ensured a third party has not fraudulently executed a contract using another party's identity. This concern was addressed by the above-incorporated patent application. However, another concern with such contracts involves avoiding any legal complications such as those raised by the Sherman Antitrust Act. Specifically, with contracts involving multiple parties such as the examples set forth above, the law might require that the contract partner originally selling the hardware, be a different entity than the contract partner selling the service package. Moreover, the law might also require that the contract partner selling the hardware be isolated from the terms and conditions of the service-based contract between the second contract partner and the customer. With the recent evolution of electronic contract execution, providing such isolation/security between the contracts has not been addressed.
In view of the foregoing, there exists a need for a method, system and program product for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure. Specifically, a need exists for a system that will provide the required legal security between contract partners and their corresponding contracts, while still allowing for the adequate (electronic) development and execution of such contracts
In general, the present invention provides a method, system and program product for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure. Specifically, under the present invention, contract information corresponding to a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer, and contract information corresponding to a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer is received within a secure computer infrastructure. Based on the contract information, the first and second contracts are created. To provide desired isolation and security, the second contract is secured to prevent access thereof by the first contract partner. Then, approval and execution for both contracts is requested from the appropriate parties.
A first aspect of the present invention provides a method for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure, comprising: receiving a first set of contract information for a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer within the secure computer infrastructure; receiving a second set of contract information for a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer within the secure computer infrastructure; electronically creating, within the secure computer infrastructure, the first contract based on the first set of contract information and the second contract based on the second set of contract information; securing the second contract to prevent access by the first contract partner; and requesting approval determinations for the first contract and the second contract by the customer.
A second aspect of the present invention provides a system for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure, comprising: a contract information collection system for receiving a first set of contract information for a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer within the secure computer infrastructure, and a second set of contract information for a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer within the secure computer infrastructure; a contract creation system for electronically creating, within the secure computer infrastructure, the first contract based on the first set of contract information and the second contract based on the second set of contract information; a security system for securing the second contract to prevent access by the first contract partner; and a contract approval system for requesting and receiving approval determinations for the first contract and the second contract by the customer.
A third aspect of the present invention provides a program product stored on a recordable medium for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure, which when executed comprises: program code for receiving a first set of contract information for a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer within the secure computer infrastructure, and a second set of contract information for a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer within the secure computer infrastructure; program code for electronically creating, within the secure computer infrastructure, the first contract based on the first set of contract information and the second contract based on the second set of contract information; program code for securing the second contract to prevent access by the first contract partner; and program code for requesting and receiving approval determinations for the first contract and the second contract by the customer.
A fourth aspect of the present invention provides a system for deploying an electronic contract application, comprising: a secure computer infrastructure being operable to: receive a first set of contract information for a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer, and a second set of contract information for a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer; electronically create the first contract based on the first set of contract information and the second contract based on the second set of contract information; secure the second contract to prevent access by the first contract partner; and request and receive approval determinations for the first contract and the second contract by the customer.
Therefore, the present invention provides a method, system and program product for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure.
These and other features of this invention will be more readily understood from the following detailed description of the various aspects of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:
The drawings are not necessarily to scale. The drawings are merely schematic representations, not intended to portray specific parameters of the invention. The drawings are intended to depict only typical embodiments of the invention, and therefore should not be considered as limiting the scope of the invention. In the drawings, like numbering represents like elements.
For convenience purposes, the Best Mode for Carrying Out the Invention will have the following sections:
I. General Description
II. Computerized Implementation
III. Detailed Examples
I. General Description
As indicated above, the present invention provides a method, system and program product for protecting electronic contracts created within a secure computer infrastructure. Specifically, under the present invention, contract information corresponding to a first contract between a first contract partner and a customer, and contract information corresponding to a second contract between a second contract partner and the customer is received within a secure computer infrastructure. Based on the contract information, the first and second contracts are created. To provide desired isolation and security, the second contract is secured to prevent access thereof by the first contract partner. Then, approval and execution for both contracts is requested from the appropriate parties.
As used herein, the term “contract” is intended to refer to any legally binding agreement, such as an agreement for the purchase of goods (e.g., computer hardware), a service agreement, etc. To this extent, the term contract includes, but is not limited to, agreements that have been negotiated between the parties where one party is performing a service and/or delivering hardware. Moreover, for illustrative purposes, the term “goods” will be discussed with respect to computer hardware, while the term “service” will be discussed herein with respect to corresponding service for the computer hardware. However, it should be appreciated that the teachings described herein could be used in conjunction with any type of goods and/or services.
II. Computerized Implementation
Referring now to
In general, CP1, CP2, customer 16 and distributor 18 (collectively referred to as the parties) will interface with infrastructure 22 to create/modify, approve and electronically execute customized contracts. To this extent, the parties could access infrastructure 22 directly, or over a network via interfaces (e.g., web browsers) loaded on computerized devices (e.g., personal computers, laptops, handheld devices, etc. not shown in
It should be understood that under the present invention, infrastructure 22 could be owned and/or operated by a party such as CP1, or by an independent entity. Regardless, use of infrastructure 22 and the teachings described herein could be offered to the parties on a subscription or fee-basis. In either scenario, an administrator 19 could support and configure infrastructure 22.
Regardless, as further shown, computer system 24 generally comprises central processing unit (CPU) 26, memory 28, bus 30, input/output (I/O) interfaces 32, external devices/resources 34 and storage unit 36. CPU 36 may comprise a single processing unit, or be distributed across one or more processing units in one or more locations, e.g., on a client and computer system. Memory 28 may comprise any known type of data storage and/or transmission media, including magnetic media, optical media, random access memory (RAM), read-only memory (ROM), a data cache, etc. Moreover, similar to CPU 26, memory 28 may reside at a single physical location, comprising one or more types of data storage, or be distributed across a plurality of physical systems in various forms.
I/O interfaces 32 may comprise any system for exchanging information to/from an external source. External devices/resources 34 may comprise any known type of external device, including speakers, a CRT, LCD screen, handheld device, keyboard, mouse, voice recognition system, speech output system, printer, monitor/display, facsimile, pager, etc. Bus 30 provides a communication link between each of the components in computer system 24 and likewise may comprise any known type of transmission link, including electrical, optical, wireless, etc.
Storage unit 36 can be any system (e.g., database, a document web server, etc.) capable of providing storage for information under the present invention. Such information could include, for example, contracts, activity histories, etc. As such, storage unit 36 could include one or more storage devices, such as a magnetic disk drive or an optical disk drive. In another embodiment, storage unit 36 includes data distributed across, for example, a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) or a storage area network (SAN) (not shown). Although not shown, additional components, such as cache memory, communication systems, system software, etc., may be incorporated into computer system 24. In addition, it should also be appreciated that although not shown, any computerized devices operated by the parties would likely include computerized components similar to computer system 24.
Shown in memory 28 of computer system 24 is contract system 40. Under the present invention, contract system 40 allows for the customized creation, approval and electronic execution of related contracts between multiple parties within infrastructure 22. Moreover, contract system 40 allows the contracts to be secured to prevent access by one or more other parties. Specifically, as will be further described below, contract system 40 provides several key protocols/advantages not previously recognized. For example, under the present invention: (1) security to infrastructure 22 is maintained (e.g., typically through 128 bit encryption); (2) confidentiality is maintained so that only appropriate parties can view data and contracts; (3) data integrity is maintained so that corruption does not occur; (4) data retention is provided so that the parties can later view the contract and its surrounding activity; (5) authentication is required so that only authorized parties can access the infrastructure 22 and pertinent contracts; (6) non-repudiation is provided by ensuring that the party executing the contract is the actual party and not a fraudulent user; and (7) data access is provided so that appropriate parties can view data relating to the contract process.
Referring now to
The functions of each of these systems will be further described below, but in general, registration system 42 will be used to first register the parties. In the case where infrastructure 22 is owned/operated by CP1, only registration of CP2, customer 16 and/or distributor 18 might be necessary. In general, registration of a party entails obtaining profile information such as contact information, credit history, etc. Registration is also used so that parties can be later authenticated when attempting to access infrastructure 22. In addition, once profile information is obtained, registration system 42 can communicate with other external systems (not shown) to perform a credit check or the like on a registering party. Authentication system 44 ensures that only authorized parties can access infrastructure 22. Typically this is done based on login information such as a user name and password. Negotiation system 45 provides interface pages for parties to negotiate the terms of their contracts within infrastructure 22. Security system 46 provides security for infrastructure 12 against hackers and the like. This is typically accomplished using 128 bit encryption or other similar method. Under the present invention, security system 46 also provides for separation and security of contracts within infrastructure 22. As indicated above, a contract scenario involving the parties shown in
Activity tracking system 48 is used to track all activity occurring within infrastructure 22 (e.g., based on date and time as well as an IP address of the users performing the actions). For example, when a contract is created, an entry will be made in storage unit 36 or the like. Similarly, as parties approve and execute the contracts, entries will be made in storage unit 36. This allows a complete history of activity to be easily viewed. Contract information collection system 49 provides interface pages for collecting contract information for the creation of contracts. Contract creation system 50 will create the customized contracts between the parties based on the needs thereof. Contract approval system 52 will coordinate the approval of the contract by the corresponding parties. Once the contract is approved, contract execution system 54 will coordinate the execution of the contracts the parties. After the contract is executed, image system 56 can generate a final image of the contracts for the parties.
The functions of the present invention will be further described below in the context of illustrative scenario 10 of
After CP2 and customer 16 have been registered, communication between the parties will occur to determine the corresponding sets of contract requirements/information. For example, the contract between CP1 and customer 16 might be for certain types of hardware at certain quantities and prices. Similarly, the contract between CP2 and customer might be to provide service for the hardware for a certain length, and for a certain price. These sets of contract information can be collected manually by CP1 and/or CP2 (or a representative thereof), electronically via e-mail or the like, or using negotiation system 45. For example, negotiation system 45 can provide interface pages for CP1 and/or CP2 to communicate with customer 16 to determine the precise terms of the contracts. In a typical embodiment, the terms for both contracts will be negotiated by CP1, however, this need not be the case. If CP1 negotiates the terms for the hardware contract and CP2 negotiates the terms for the service contract, the present invention will provide proper isolation and security therefor to ensure that CP1 will not be able to access the terms of the service contract negotiated by CP2. In any event, the contract information can be populated into one or more interface pages 60 provided by contract information collection system 49 (such as that shown in
Under the present invention, to provide any needed isolation between CP1 and the service contract, CP2 can utilize security system 46 to secure the service contract. In a typical embodiment, several options are possible. For example, CP2 can encrypt the service contract with a key that is only made available to CP2 and customer 16. Alternatively, CP2 can store the service contract in a document web server such similar to storage unit 36. In such a case, the document web server could be maintained and controlled by CP2 so that access is limited. It should be understood that these options are not intended to be exhaustive and other known security methods could be implemented for securing the service contract. Moreover, to the extent negotiation system 45 is used to develop the terms of the contracts, security system 46 can also provide any needed security and isolation for the negotiations.
In any event, once the contracts have been created, activity tracking system 48 (
Regardless, once the contracts have been generated, contract approval system 52 (
Once customer 16 approves the contracts, the statuses thereof will be changed to “Ready to Sign” by contract approval system 52 (
In a typical embodiment, if customer 16 indicates the contract is “Ready to Sign,” any comments input by customer 16 can be blocked out. This helps prevent subsequent repudiation or dispute. At this point contract execution system 54 (
Similar to the approval process, customer 16's login information will first be authenticated. Thereafter, as shown in
Once customer 16 executes the contracts, contract execution system 54 (
At this point, CP1 and/or CP2 can be prompted by image system 56 (
Because activity tracking system 48 (
Because the present invention incorporates various safeguards, repudiation of the contract by either party is extremely difficult. For example, not only do approval and execution of the contract require separate deliberate actions by both parties, but authentication is also provided at all phases of the process, including twice for execution. Moreover, the present invention provides an opportunity for appropriate legal notices to be provided.
It should be understood that interface pages discussed herein are not intended to be limiting or exhaustive, rather they are only a sampling of illustrative pages that could be implemented under the present invention. A more detailed sampling of interface pages is shown and described in the above-incorporated patent application. It should also be understood that the present invention can be realized in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software. Any kind of computer system(s)—or other apparatus adapted for carrying out the methods described herein—is suited. A typical combination of hardware and software could be a general purpose computer system with a computer program that, when loaded and executed, carries out the respective methods described herein. Alternatively, a specific use computer, containing specialized hardware for carrying out one or more of the functional tasks of the invention, could be utilized. The present invention can also be embedded in a computer program product, which comprises all the respective features enabling the implementation of the methods described herein, and which—when loaded in a computer system—is able to carry out these methods. Computer program, software program, program, or software, in the present context mean any expression, in any language, code or notation, of a set of instructions intended to cause a system having an information processing capability to perform a particular function either directly or after either or both of the following: (a) conversion to another language, code or notation; and/or (b) reproduction in a different material form.
In this section, three detailed examples for carrying out the present invention will be discussed.
In this example, assume that the parties involved are those discussed in conjunction with scenario 10 of
In this example, assume that the parties involved include CP1, distributor 18, CP2 and customer 16 (as shown in
In this example, assume that the parties involved include CP1, distributor 18, CP2 and customer 16 (as shown in
The foregoing description of the preferred embodiments of this invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed, and obviously, many modifications and variations are possible. Such modifications and variations that may be apparent to a person skilled in the art are intended to be included within the scope of this invention as defined by the accompanying claims. For example, the depiction of contract system 40 is intended to be illustrative only. That is, contract system 40 could be represented by a different configuration of systems. For example, the status of the contract could be changed by a “status system” (not shown) in contract system 40 instead of by the individual systems as described above. Moreover, although certain terminology has been used herein to indicate the various status's of the contract, it should be understood that other versions of terminology could be utilized. Still yet, although 128 bit encryption is indicated as the typical method of encryption, any other type of encryption could be implemented to provide security for the system.
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|International Classification||G06F12/14, G06Q10/00, G06F21/00|
|Cooperative Classification||G06Q50/18, G06Q10/10, G06F21/10, G06F21/6272|
|European Classification||G06Q10/10, G06F21/62B7, G06F21/10, G06Q50/18|
|Oct 7, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW Y
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:FARQUHARSON, ASTON G.;ALEXANDER, ROBERT T.;CAMMAROTA, MICHAEL J.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015226/0973;SIGNING DATES FROM 20040923 TO 20040928
|Oct 10, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4